India plans to recruit one young man and woman from every large village in the country to over the next five years teach their peers about safe sex and HIV, a health official said on Wednesday. This initiative is part of larger campaign in the fight against the deadly disease AIDS.
The army of young people would be part of India’s frontline as it tries to slow the spread of the deadly virus, which already infects an estimated 5.7 million Indians — the world’s largest caseload, according to the United Nations.
“They could be weavers, or agricultural laborers or just be hanging around the village market place,” said Sujatha Rao, director general of India’s National Aids Control Organization.
“But the point is the distribution of condoms, and messages on radio and TV only go so far. We need to sit down with young people and make them talk,” she told a conference on sexual equality.
Those taking part in the scheme, who will be in their early 20s, will be asked to help dispel macho notions that men should try and have unprotected sex with as many women as they can, notions that health workers say are common.
Rao hopes to bring 20,000 out of India’s 640,000 villages — those with more than 5,000 inhabitants — into the scheme.